A few more haiku

​Governments and gods
may vastly differ, but we
aren’t that different.

There are billions of
ways to be human. We don’t
have to be the same. 

I wonder if cows
pray. Does God understand the
cock-a-doo-dle-do?

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

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In the lonely hour

​On one of my first runs in my community, I was greeted by several people who were out completing morning tasks. I stopped to exchange pleasantries in siSwati before continuing with the run. Some of the community members wanted to know who I was, and what I was doing in their community. This included a group of men hanging out at the local store.

As I ran past the store, one man yelled, “Uyagijima!”, which means “You are running!” I decided that I would stop to introduce myself to the group. Because my community is on the border with South Africa, it’s not uncommon for people to have business in both Swaziland and South Africa. I explained that I’m from the Washington, DC in the US, and that I’m a Peace Corps volunteer. We discussed my adjustment to the community and Swaziland, and how I was settling in.

After a few minutes of pleasantries, one of the men asked if I had a girlfriend or wife here. I informed them that I did not. They inquired as to why I hadn’t found a wife or girlfriend here. I told them that I wanted to get to know the community and focus on that. One of the men objected saying that I could not spend my time here alone. He explained that I needed the company of a woman at least a few times a month, and that he could assist me with finding a woman. I laughed, and restated that I wanted to focus on the community. Another man asked if the Peace Corps was a Christian organization, and if that was the reason I declined the gracious offer. I told them that the Peace Corps is not a religious organization, and that I really wanted to focus on getting to know the community.

In contrast to that conversation, I’ve found that my time in the community can be isolating. There’s quite a bit of time to be with yourself. There is time to think. There is time to ponder. After the encounter with the gentlemen at the store, I thought it would be nice to have some company. However, it’s also nice to discover new things in my community while meeting new people. I’m also thankful to have the support and friendship of other volunteers and others in Swaziland, and abroad.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

Photo Post: August 2016 (NSFW)

Warning: this post does contain one picture with nudity (bare breasts)

The cow chilling with the calf. Life in Nkamandzi is pretty good. 

Some extended family came over for the weekend. My bobhuti made swings for everyone to play on. 

After dinner, I wanted to capture the moment and the moon. Mostly, the moon. 

For host family appreciation day, some trainees donned traditional Swazi dress (lihiya and sidvasha). 

I haven’t encountered many training managers. But after being under the tutelage of Yemi, I can confidently say that she’s the best. 

My sikhoni, mzala (cousin), and me on host family appreciation day. Photo credit: Timmya D. 

Bhuti wami, make wami na mine. (My brother, my mother, and me). Host family appreciation day. Photo credit: Timmya D. 

One of the biggest traditions in the world, Umhlanga, celebrates the purity and chastity of young maidens. Also, called the Reed Dance, about 98000 young ladies and girls. 

When his majesty, King Mswati III arrives, he arrives! He attended Umhlanga also with dignitaries from Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and, Lesotho to name a few. 

Extended family comes to town. Of course, pictures are in order. 

Before the host family appreciation day festivities, Nate gets his lihiya (traditional Swazi top dress) on properly with the assistance of a host make. 

As we prepared to leave Nkamandzi, another volunteer’s family had some of us over for dinner. Here, Nathalie (left) cooks rice on the open fire with Akirah’s make. 

Be kind to yourself. 
Onward. 

Swearing In: a special picture post

On Thursday, my group (G14) along with six Peace Corps Response volunteers took an official oath of service in front of several other currently serving volunteers, dignitaries, community members. Here are some pictures from the event. 

Our country director pinned each of us. It’s a cool pin that has Peace Corps’ logo with the flags the US and Swaziland. Photo credit: Aaron W. 

Black excellence in action. Period. 

Group 14 of Peace Corps Swaziland and the Global Health Service Partnership (PC Response), along with the country director, deputy chief of missions, Ministers of education and economic development. 

My teacher is the best in the business. Timmya challenged me to make sure I learned siSwati. I’m going to miss being in her class. I will get to sleep a bit more. So there’s that. 

These ladies provided great support. I’m looking forward to the next two years. 

As you might know from the previous post, I gave remarks on behalf of my training class. These remarks were given in siSwati. I even ended up on the Swazi evening news. Feel free to read those remarks here. Photo credit: Aaron W.

Students from Saint Frances Primary School performed traditional dance during the ceremony. Photo credit: Aaron W. 

Fancy feast. It’s a brand of cat food in America, but for swearing in, it meant eating like a king. 

If you know me, you know I try to burn bright 366 days a year. Shouts to my brothers and sisters headed to Black Rock City now. 

Thank you to all of the wonderful people who made this happen wherever you are in the world. 

Be kind to yourself. 

Onward. 

Embargoed until delivery

Let’s just start by saying, I AM OFFICIALLY A PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER!

Group 14 swore in yesterday, and I had the distinct honor of giving the trainee class remarks in siSwati. Below, I have included my remarks, both in siSwati and English.

SiSwati –

Sanibonani bonkhosi

Ngiyajabula kutfola lelitfuba lekukhulumela onkhe emavolontiya aG14. Etinyangeni letimbili letendlulile, emavolontiya lachamuka etindzaweni letehlukene taseMelika afike kaNgwane.

Sitikhetsele kutosita emaSwati, siphendvule lubito lwaPeace Corps lwekutsi sitinikele kutovolontiya, selule sandla sebungani, siselulele eSwatini.
Ngitsatsa lelitfuba kubonga ingwenyama yeMaswati kusimema kutsi sitosita eSwatini. Ngendlulisa kubonga kuTraining staff sakaPeace Corps. Ngendlulisa kubonga kubothishela labente siciniseko kutsi sifundza siSwati nemihambo yemaSwati. Ngetulu kwaloko, ngibonga tonkhe tikhulumi netimenywa letetfule tinkhulumo nasisaceceshwa. Kuliciniso kutsi kutsatsa umango wonkhe kufundzisa livolontiya. Ngibonga kakhulu, kakhulu kumango wase Nkamanzi nase Sihhohhweni kusivulela emakhaya netindlu tabo. Siyabonga kwenta siciniseko kutsi silungele kuyosebenta emimangweni yetfu. Sifundzile, sadadisha, sitimisele kuchubeka nekufundza sisatinta eveni lakaNgwane.

Babe Bongani Shiba wake watsi, “silitsimba laseMelika eSwatini, lokusho kutsi emimangweni yetfu sitomelela live nebantfu bonkhe baseMelika”. Wachubeka watsi,”nyalo sesimelele mengameli welive laseMelika noma ngukuphi lapho sihamba khona, etifundzeni totine takangwane, nakuto tongu 55 tinkhundla telive”.

Egameni lemavolontiya elishumi nane (14) solo abuya Peace Corps eSwatini, sicela kunatisa nekucinisekisa kutsi sesilungele. Silungele kusita, silungele kunikela lucobo lwetfu emsebentini, nasekweluleni tandla tetfu tebungani kulo lonkhe laseSwatini.
Siyabonga kutfola litfuba lekusita nekusebenta nani.

Sinitsandza nonkhe!

English –

Good afternoon bonkhosi.

I am honored to be addressing you today on behalf of group 14. Just over two months ago, a group of Americans from different walks of life arrived in Swaziland. We had decided to serve. We answered the call of the US Peace Corps to offer ourselves in service and to extend the hand of friendship.

I would like to thank his majesty, King Mswati the third for inviting us to serve here in Swaziland. I would like to thank all of the Peace Corps Swaziland training staff. I would like to offer special appreciation to our teachers who ensured that we knew siSwati and the cultural norms of Swaziland. I would also like to acknowledge all of the presenters and guest speakers who spoke to us during our training. It is true that it takes an entire community to raise a volunteer. I offer our thanks and gratitude to the villages of Nkamandzi and Sihhoweni for sharing your piece of Swaziland with each of us. Thank you for ensuring that we are ready to serve. We have learned. We have studied. We are committed to continued learning as we integrate into Swaziland.

Babe Bongani Shiba one told me that we are the US delegation in Swaziland. That in the community, we represent everything that America is, and all Americans. Babe Shiba simplified it to say that, “right now, you represent the president of the United States”. All across this great kingdom. In four regions and 55 tinkhundla. On behalf of the 14th group of Peace Corps trainees to be sworn in since the Peace Corps returned to Swaziland, please know that we are ready. We are ready to listen. We are ready to help. We are ready to offer ourselves in service and extend the hand of friendship across the kingdom of Swaziland.

Thank you for allowing us to serve.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

An Appreciation

There are some things that I have really come to enjoy and appreciate since arriving in Swaziland almost two months ago. And host family appreciation day is quickly approaching.

For starters, my host family is pretty amazing. They are super kind and considerate. For the first week that I spent in the homestead experience, one of the children brought me hot water for my bath every morning at 6 AM. Like clockwork. With that being said, I appreciate the family culture here. There is also a big community culture here. The community takes care of its own. Family is important. That includes those with and without blood relation.

My family has avocado trees in the yard. I think I’ve eaten more avocados and things made with avocado in the past seven weeks than I have in my entire life. The avocados are abundant and delicious. As I looked at the avocado trees one day, it dawned on me that whoever planned these trees probably never enjoyed these avocados as I am. For that person, and all tree planters around the world, I thank you. Some families in my community have farms. This means that I’m able to walk down the road and find fresh broccoli, carrots, spinach, cauliflower and more. I get to practice my siSwati, support local business, and get high quality produce.

It’s winter in Swaziland right now. Despite this, I am able to walk around my homestead in shorts and a long sleeve shirt most days. On clear nights, I can look up to the sky and see many stars. One of the members of my cohort pointed out Mars one night. I have a newfound appreciation for the galaxy beyond this planet. There’s a certain serene-ness that I experience on those really clear, quiet nights.

I’m thankful for all of these things, and for the amazement yet to be seen.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward. 

Photo Post: July 2016

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Three out of my four young bobhuti in my training host family. They wanted a picture. Wish granted.

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Half of our language class, with our thishela. It’s always the right time for a selfie.

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That’s me cutting the chicken’s neck while a thishela holds the chicken’s body. It’s a real farm to table experience. Photo credit – Timmya D.

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During a school visit, we were waiting on the teacher to show up. I entertained questions about life in America. Photo credit – Timmya D.

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Meet Deborah, right, and Lakia. These young ladies are in my cohort (G14). They graciously agreed to be subjects as I work on my photog skills.

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As a part of our training, we visited the sangoma, or traditional healer. He calls on the ancestors to heal folks of various ailments.

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We were privileged to journey to Milwane Game Reserve. A walk through the game park revealed stupendous sights.

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During our visit to the Matenga Cultural Village, Darah was invited up to join the dance. The cultural village educates people on Swazi culture and traditions.

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If you know me, you know I love bicycles. These bobhuti allowed me to ride their bike for a bit. No tires. No chain. No cog. No seat. No problem. Photo credit – Timmya D.

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Each one, teach one. Meaghan and Darah talk to some local children about gardening after our permagardening session.

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This is Letty. Her shirt caught my attention. I find out that a local guy makes them. I’m excited to buy local and support small business.

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At the end of a long day of a practicum, this permagarden is the result. Team work makes the dream work.

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After playing catch, they stopped for a picture. Lots of love captured here.

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I’m not sure who took this photo, but here are almost all of the currently serving volunteers (and trainees) at the Fourth of July celebration hosted by our country director. Peace Corps Swaziland!

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

Let’s play a little game

One of the ways that I have been hanging out with my bobhuti na bosisi (brothers and sisters) is playing games at home. I bought a deck of playing cards, and learned a few tricks to share with my bobhuti na bosisi. The tricks were well received, and met with faces of wonder and amazement.

Some of my bobhuti decided to teach me some of the card games they play here. The first game they taught me was called, “Casino”. I still don’t understand how exactly it works. I do remember a few things about the game and its rules. Each card has a value. All numbered cards are that number’s value. Jacks are worth 11. Queens are worth 12. Kings are worth 13. Aces are worth either 14 or 1. To win, you have to build a home, which is a stack of cards. Whoever has the most spades in their home wins.

One of my bhuti taught me how to play a card game called, “AK-47”. Each player is dealt four cards. Each player begins her/his turn by picking up a card from the deck, which is face down, and discarding one card face up. A player can also pick up one card from the discarded pile. The goal of the game is to get an ace, a king, a four, and a seven. These cards do not have to be the same suit. This game was really simple to grasp. Because of that, I really enjoyed it.

Another game that my bobhuti taught me was called, “Stomach”. The cards are spread in a circle face down. Each player begins his/her turn by picking up any card in the circle and placing it face up in the center of the circle. When the next player starts her/his turn, s/he cannot repeat the suit on top of the face up pile. If the suit does repeat, that player must pick up the entire pile of face up cards. S/he will then turn over a new card to start a new face up pile. Once all of the cards in the face down circle are gone, the next player will play a card in the face up pile. Whatever card is played cannot repeat the suit of the card on top of the discard pile. If the suit is repeated, that player must pick up the entire pile. When a player has no more cards, that player wins. I asked one of the boys why the game was called, “Stomach”. He told me that towards the end of the game when a player has to pick up a large pile of cards, it looks like that person is pregnant or has a large stomach.

I’ll close by saying that while I have enjoyed playing with the children and learning about them through play, I am oft times amazed at the ingenuity of the children around the village. One boy made a model car with scrap metal rods and plastic bottle caps. He is able to steer the car with a metal rod that he pushes. Another boy has made several soccer balls using plastic grocery bags packed with the trash of the homestead. It’s pretty amazing.

Be kind to yourself.
Onward.

Photo Post: June 2016

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This is a group of almost all most of group 14 from Peace Corps Swaziland. This was the day that we met our training host families and moved in. Things were running on Swazi time, which meant that it was time to capture the perfect selfie.

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After our khombi broke down and we walked to the village, we came upon a soccer game/practice. These young boys were fascinated by Nate’s camera. I think Rachael and Meaghan were intrigued as well.

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Nevermind Clarin’s face in the background. The foreground features me and my teacher. She’s hard on us, but she’s kind and makes sure that we know what we need to know.

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These pictures are from my homestead. The above is a picture from the latrine in the morning. The bottom is a picture of that latrine. This is home.

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Sometimes, after you meet the village chief, you stop for a selfie break with a fellow trainee’s host family. So much beauty in this photo.

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This probably should have been first. When we first arrived from Johannesburg at the training site in Swaziland, all of the Peace Corps training staff came out to greet us. We were happy, if you can’t tell. Photo credit – Nellie

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Nellie captures all the perfect pictures in all of the right moments. We were headed to school/the training site in this one.

That’s all for now. Hopefully, I’m able to share pictures often.

Onward.